Florida has made early education a priority since voters approved Voluntary Prekindergarten in 2002.
Despite criticisms that funding has created just a mediocre program, VPK has opened the preschool doors to many more Florida children than ever before, helping to better prepare them for the increasing rigor of kindergarten and beyond.
Now some lawmakers have proposed opening the door wider.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee on Tuesday unanimously supported SB 7006, an early education bill, after tagging on an amendment that would open kindergarten to four-year-olds.
Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Dade City, sponsored the language, which would allow school districts to create policies permitting families to enroll their four-year-olds in kindergarten if the children have turned 4 by Sept. 1 of the school year and achieved certain academic and social standards.
Currently, kindergarten is open to five-year-olds. Mandatory school age would remain ages 6 to 16 under the bill, though, keeping kindergarten optional (though highly recommended).
Early education improvements have been a priority in the Florida House for the past few years, but gained no traction in the Senate. The movement on SB 7006 suggests this year could see some action. Its next scheduled stop is the Appropriations Committee.